I watched part of ABC’s GCB last night. GCB is based on the book Good Christian Bitches. There are Christians who are screaming “persecution” in response to this show. Some have glibly stated that there would be an outcry if there were a program called GMB, with the “M” standing for Muslim. In this post, I’ll list some thoughts:
1. I don’t think that Christians should only be portrayed positively in stories and media. The impression I get from folks on the religious right is that any negative depiction of Christians amounts to persecution. In my opinion, though, religious hypocrisy is fair game when it comes to stories. We’d have to eliminate a lot of literature if we could only accept the stories that depict Christianity or religion positively. George Elliott’s Middlemarch had a religious hypocrite, Bulstrode. There was the cold guy in Jane Eyre who told young Jane that she was going to hell. There’s Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Scarlet Letter. There’s the Bible! Then, going to the evangelical realm, there are Christian movies that depict one or more Christian character negatively. I think of the movie Hidden Secrets.
2. I do like to see some positive portrayal of religion in stories and in media. One reason is that many Christians are good folks, and their religion inspires them to do positive things. Another reason is that faith and the search for meaning are a part of our (and many other) cultures, and so stories that talk about the big questions can be quite powerful, when they are well-written. Overall, I feel that television, the movies, and books are positive when it comes to their depiction of religion and spirituality. I think of such programs as Six Feet Under, Desperate Housewives, Dexter, LOST, and a host of others. I did not watch all of GCB last night, for it did not particularly draw me in. But I hope that it’s about much more than bashing Christians, and that there will be something deep and reflective about it (but I’m not optimistic). The movie Saved! also lampooned the evangelical sub-culture, but I liked it because it had positive things to say about faith—-where it is right, where it can go wrong (in the author’s opinion), etc.
3. I can somewhat sympathize with my evangelical friends who feel that society is tolerant of everyone and everything—-except for them. What would the reaction be to a show that depicted Muslims, Jews, homosexuals, or African-Americans in a negative light? Shouldn’t we refrain from condemning all groups, including evangelical Christians?
I do not have a good answer to this question. I think that, on some level, evangelical Christianity is fair game because of its prominence in American society (though, of course, many evangelicals would claim that they are marginalized in the United States). I myself am not against acknowledging that people may have problems with elements of Islam or Judaism. The West Wing, for example, talks about Islamic extremists, but (in contrast to Islamophobes) it does not apply that label to all Muslims. So I’m not sure where I land on this question of depicting groups. I’m against stigmatizing entire groups of people, but I also realize that stories reflect reality, on some level, and there are times when people use their religion in evil ways. In my mind, it’s acceptable to highlight that.